Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cuil for the Caucasus? A quick test!

As many of you may have heard, this week saw the launch of a competitor to Google. Cuil, which apparently is an old Irish word for knowledge, has been set up by several former Googlists and promises a search that's more oriented on content, and says it can do a more comprehensive job in the ever-expanding worldwide web.

So if it's supposed to find rare and out of the way things, how does it do for the Caucasus? We did a quick self test. For Caucasus and data, it does indeed return us on the very top, or at least in the first line, and it's a nice interface, as you can see. However, it also shows choices that are at least somewhat eccentric.

We get a somewhat similar picture for caucasus research, but again it seems to favor our Armenian website. The Georgian or Azerbaijani office are not immediately in sight.

The preference for Armenia is a little odd, since our English language websites in the three countries are practically identical (and similar to the regional site, too).

What does it do for Caucasus and social science? Note we did not put the words in quotation marks, so it's a free search term.

There is some irony in this conclusion, but we don't think it's entirely fair.

And can it help with more specialized requests? We queried CRRC's own Survey Director, Tina(tin) Zurabishvili. Here you see a comparison of Google and Cuil.

Cuil gets it, but again takes us to Armenia. It also throws in a lot of chaff on Salome Zurabishvili, or Tinatin Khidasheli, two Georgian opposition figures. So Google still seems ahead here. As far as we're concerned, Cuil is an interesting additional tool if Google doesn't find what you're looking for, but not yet a serious alternative for internet research on the Caucasus.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Caucasus Data: Tolerance towards Others

The CRRC Data Initiative (DI) gives people an opportunity to do interesting cross-country comparisons of the South Caucasus (SC) people’s attitude toward their neighbors. This subject is quite sensitive and complex when thinking of the fact that the SC stands out for its sequence of ethnic conflicts.

According to the DI, Armenians prioritize doing business with other nations, which is followed by being friends with other nations and the last point is getting married to foreigner. As the chart shows below, 34% of Armenians approve of doing business with Azerbaijanis, 43% - with Turks, 94% - with Russians. As for friendship, Armenians show particular willingness in being friends with Russians (almost 94%), and also, with Americans (84%) and Greeks (83%). You can check the data for Armenians’ attitude toward other nations like Georgians and Iranians as well.

In contrast to Armenians, Georgians’ attitudes differ – they place friendship the highest, 94% of Georgians supports friendship with Russians, 87% supports friendship with Abkhazians; it would be very interesting to know Abkhazians' attitude towards Georgians. Georgians’ attitude toward Ossetians is the same as with Abkhazians (Friendship - 87%, Business - 82%, and Marriage – 42%).

Attitudes are less mercantile than in Armenia: business comes after friendship, but also with high perc
entages. Marriage outside one's people generally is not so popular, although still more than half of the population in
Georgia and Armenia support marriage between Georgians and Russians and Armenians and Russians; a fourth of Azerbaijanis support marriage with Russians as well. Despite Georgia’s spats with Russia, Georgians appears to maintain strong positive feelings to the people. Marrying Americans is less popular, by comparison.

For Azerbaijanis, there is no clear difference in preferences for friendship and business. Mostly approval rates tally closely, although they obviously vary between nations. Overall, Azerbaijanis are reluctant to engage with Armenians (1% for all three variables), which cannot be said about Armenians’ attitude towards Azerbaijanis. That may be the logic of grievance, but note that the same cannot be said for Georgians’ attitude toward Abkhazians: Georgians lost the war but approval of friendship, business, marriage remain high. We would like to hear what you think might explain the stark contrasts.

Moreover, Azerbaijanis, similarly to Armenians and Georgians, are positively disposed toward Russians. In order to see whether religion variable controls Azerbaijanis’ attitude toward marrying Russians, we cross tabbed both variables: the data showed that only 6% of Muslim Azerbaijanis who attend religious services ‘every day’ support marring Russians. You might be interested to come up with your own hypothesis on Georgians marring Abkhaz or Turks.

For more details on the topic and/or for other interesting data, check out the DI dataset here. (Also with special thanks to Katy Pearce for suggesting us to look into this.)

Friday, July 18, 2008

PFA Report on “Armenia’s 2008 Presidential Election”

For those who have been far from Armenia or who have not actively followed the plethora of developments that have occurred in the country for the past six months, the report encompassing a nearly full picture of the current situation in Armenia has finally become available. “Armenia’s 2008 Presidential Election: Select Issue an Analysis” is a report recently released by Policy Forum Armenia (PFA), a newly founded association.

The report is the first of its kind following the February 19, 2008 Presidential Election of Armenia since it provides a full description of the pre-election and post-election events. The report includes both qualitative and quantitative analysis. The information provided in the qualitative sections of this report is mainly based on Armenian local and international newspaper articles, reports released by international organization as well as blogs on the internet. Unlike the primarily technical reports by OSCE/ODIHR, the report does not just limit itself to describing the 2008 presidential elections, but also presents it in the larger context of political and social developments of post-Soviet Armenia.

For those who have closely followed the political developments in Armenia, a particularly interesting section of the report may be the section on the “Statistical Analysis of the Official Election Outcome”. In this section the authors utilize a number of tests developed in the 1990s by Sobianin and Sukhovolskiy, and later revised by other scholars such as Gelman, Kaiunov, Michael Myagkov (University of Oregon), Peter Ordeshook (California Institute of Technology), and their co-authors. The analysis of the election results through this methodology indicates inconsistencies in the 2008 Presidential Election. For example, the report reveals that there was much higher voter turnout in the regions outside of the capital city-Yerevan. This is unlikely, as generally considerably more civic activism is observed in Yerevan as opposed to the rural areas. Out of the 1,923 polling stations in Armenia more than 129 polling stations had higher than 90 percent voter turnout (p. 21, see figure below). Such turnout levels are highly unlikely, especially given the high migration levels. The other tests reveal inconsistencies within the distribution of individual candidates’ votes, in the relationship between the candidates’ votes and voter turnout, and within the distribution of invalid ballots. The report is careful to specify that the statistical findings do not provide definitive proof of election fraud, but only an (albeit powerful) indication.

Finally, the report concludes with a full section devoted to the civil society awakening in Armenia in connection with the 2008 Presidential Election. More specifically, the final section discusses the increase in the activism especially among women and the youth, as well as the rise in information sharing and networking through the internet. While the report does not provide any innovative recommendations to mediate the post-election discontent in Armenia, it provides a solid ground for policy makers to put the events of the past six months into perspective, assess what the available tools are and put the February 19, 2008 elections into the wider political context of Armenia’s newly independent history.

On a side note, similar studies of election fraud and perception were conducted by CRRC fellows in 2005 by Dr. Masis Poghosyan and Sergey Harutyunyan.

For more detail, check out the report itself at

Monday, July 14, 2008

Diaspora Armenians in Armenian Society: the Problem of Adaptation

Difficulties with socio-economic integration – unemployment and a feeling of being “a society within a society,” are some of the examples from the list of problems Diaspora Armenians face when immigrating to Armenia. CRRC-Armenia fellow, Anahit Mkrtchyan, researched why these issues are problematic for the Diaspora Armenians and made policy recommendations.

As the researcher finds, integration of immigrant Armenians into the Armenian society is rather weak, because of a number of essential differences in values, lifestyle, dialect, moral principles and ideology peculiar to both immigrant and local Armenians. Furthermore, Diaspora Armenians lack information on their homeland and have high expectation before moving to Armenia, which also causes difficulties for their full adaptation to the Armenian reality.

According to Mkrtchyan (pictured above presenting at CRRC Armenia), attitudes of different groups toward creating integration policy vary. Local authorities avoid having repatriation and integration policies because immigrants can become competitive at the top levels in government and in business, also fear increased real estate costs. Many experts do understand the serious need of repatriation and integration policy, as repatriates will help to cultivate culture, legitimacy and civic attitudes in Armenian society. A group of representatives of Diaspora structures is sure that this policy is important, as the Diaspora faces assimilation, and there is a lack of patriotism among the younger generation.

Based on the local and Diaspora experts’ suggestions and findings, Anahit made the following policy recommendations:

  • Consolidation of Armenian structures around two parallel missions and joint involvement in their realization.
  • A nation wide integration program directed at better coordination of integration measures, offered on national and local levels. Involvement of trade unions, welfare structures, voluntary and social advocacy organizations and neighborhoods in drafting the adaptation and integration program. (Read more)

Mkrtchyan's work was published in the Turkish daily "Agos" in May 2008. The paper (PDF) in English is also available on the CRRC-Armenia website.

(Note that this, and other Fellows' work is on the CRRC Armenia blog, which we strongly encourage you to explore.)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Caucasus Data | Language: Russian versus English?

Recently, we happened upon an article that talks about the use of Russian across the Caucasus. Is Russian becoming obsolete? According to the article, some Georgian politicians suggest this is the case. At the same time, the article points out that the uptake of English is too slow to replace Russian as a lingua franca.

As usual, we were a little disappointed that the article relied on many assertions, without actually checking for data. As it happens, the Data Initiative provides some insights on the question.

With English-language use, this is what respondents told us about their language ability:

One of the explanations for the different levels may be that diaspora contacts have traditionally brought more English to Armenia. Conversely, economic growth in Baku has attracted people more recently to begin learning English (as you will notice in many hotels and restaurants).

But then, where do people see language going in the next few years? Interestingly, there's overwhelming approval for English as the first mandatory foreign language in secondary schools. Almost 70% in Azerbaijan and Georgia would prefer English, with 57% favoring English in Armenia. In Armenia, 37% suggest Russian should be mandatory in secondary schools. Only 27% of Georgians, and, surprisingly, only 18% Azerbaijani respondents prefer Russian. In Azerbaijan, 9% think that no foreign language should be mandatory, while 4% suggest that Turkish should be the first foreign language.

It is at this point, that we're curious to explore how the respondents break down into different groups. When looking at the data, Nana stumbled upon an interesting dimension: the more intelligent the respondent is rated to be (by the interviewer, and it's a very crude measure, but returns interesting results), the more they favor English.

Want to know more? Compare women and men? The old and the young? Citydwellers' English versus rural folk? Let us know, or, better, explore the data set yourself.

Monday, July 07, 2008

CRRC Publication Research Fellowship 2008 Available

Explore issues - handle data - satisfy your curiosity - get published - generate opportunities
CRRC is offering a round of research fellowships. Are you curious about a social issue? Do you have some ideas or hypotheses that you want to explore further? This fellowship could be the perfect opportunity for you!

What issues are we looking to address?

We're looking for social science research that addresses pressing issues your country faces. The Millennium Development Goals (click here) constitute one such urgent research agenda. Other likely issues include child poverty, youth, social capital, migration and democratization. Pretty much any advanced analysis based on our Data Initiative is of interest to us. We can also help you develop your topic if you are unsure about it, but are committed to undertaking professional research. Check "CRRC Fellowship" in the label cloud on the left.

What results?

We want you to produce international quality research. You should aim to publish your research in a peer-reviewed journal (we will help you find one). This will give your research international recognition. We also expect your work to contain prescriptive richness and ask you to present your findings to relevant interested groups (international, organizations, NGOs, government agencies) in your home country. We definitely want you to use some of our great data from the Data initiative 2007.

Who is the fellowship for?

You are smart, committed, curious and want to apply all your abilities. Typically you will have at least a Master's Degree. You are committed to develop your research ability and have a track record of excellence. You may work in fields other than research, but you are interested in getting back into research because you realize there are excellent long-term opportunities there. We require a working knowledge of English, since you want to publish internationally. Exceptions can be made for those doing quantitative and survey work. (Sorry, no funding for stipends abroad, or for those who live outside the Caucasus.)

What do you get?

Primarily you get the satisfaction of doing excellent work and of being part of a small but vibrant community of internationally recognized research scholars in the South Caucasus. Moreover, if you get published internationally, many opportunities follow. The fellowship provides an opportunity to prove your professionalism, which you can use for many other applications (jobs, consultancy work, joint research projects, conference participation, international research stipends such as CRRC's Carnegie Fellowship, to name the most obvious). Depending on your research project, you can also get between USD 2000 and 4000 for pursuing your research interest (surveys, for example, may have higher costs).

Is it easy?

Yes and no. We will help at every step. But it certainly is not easy money. In research you confront new challenges and difficult decisions all the time. That is why we are doing it, after all. It requires determination and persistence -- we hope you will join us in the thrill of discovery.

How to prepare?

Our online application procedure is specifically designed to help you develop your research proposal. Write us a short email now (latest by July 18, 2008) to Melissa at to find out more, telling us about your field or interest, and, if you have it, your provisional research topic. We will end you an email to let you know about the next step and to invite you to discuss your ideas at our open houses.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Maths in Armenia | comparing through TIMSS

What is the average Armenian secondary school student’s competence in Maths and Science? Is Armenia doing fine, or is it time for the education policy makers to review the secondary school curricula. Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) proposes an answer to these questions. TIMSS is an international evaluation of the mathematics and science knowledge of fourth and eighth grade students around the world. It was first conducted in 1995, and is administered once in every four years since then. In 2003, alongside with over 60 countries from around the world, Armenia also participated in the study.

Singapore (605), Hong Kong (586), Chinese Taipei (585), Japan (570) lead the TIMSS charts both in Maths and Science. The good news is that Armenia is among the countries that have high scores in Maths among the eight graders. Armenia is the 23rd in the chart, with an average score of 478 and is ahead of Serbia (477), Bulgaria (476), Romania (475) - countries that are above the international average score (467). The picture is different when it comes to the Maths scores of the fourth graders. Armenia’s indicators (456) are significantly lower than international average (495), leaving behind only Norway (451), Iran (389), Philippines (358), Morocco (341) and Tunisia (339).

Science scores among both the eight and fourth graders in Armenia are disappointing: 461 for the eight graders vs. 574 international average score and 437 vs. 489.

Interestingly, girls in Armenia show better results both in Maths and Science than boys (that's not the typical story). Look at the average grades below.


4th grade

8th grade















Some alternative studies conducted in Armenia suggest that TIMSS sample may not be representative of the overall population. If we understand the argument correctly, the authors of this study argue that students included in the sample in Armenia are from middle-upper classes. Effectively this could mean that the poorest remain underrepresented. This may be an interesting topic for research (any potential fellows out there?).

TIMSS methodology, datasets and the questionnaires are available for further analysis here. The study is not conducted in other countries yet, although Georgia looks poised to join TIMSS.